Sexual Harassment: A growing problem in high schools


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NAOMI CLENDENNING
The Mirror

Sexual harassment is a growing epidemic in the world. In workplaces, schools, homes, and government, sexual harassment has been a noticed topic by multitudes in the last decade. Although it was made illegal with the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stated in Title VII, sexual harassment still occurs daily throughout the world.

In schools, sexual harassment can lead to individuals feeling uncomfortable or frightened to participate in extracurricular activities or attend classes. The definition of sexual harassment is “requests for sexual favors or unwelcome sexual behavior that is bad enough of happens often enough to make you feel uncomfortable, scared, or confused and that interferes with your schoolwork or your ability to participate in extracurricular activities or attend class,” as stated on equalrights.org.

Many schools have policies in place to prevent sexual harassment from occurring and to create safe places where students can talk to someone if they have been sexually harassed. The issue is, a large number of sexual harassment cases go unreported because the student who was harassed may feel like they are responsible, or they may fear further confrontations from the predator.

Multiple students at Stevens Point Area Senior High (SPASH) say that sexual harassment occurs daily in school. One student said, “I always hear things in the hallway like ‘wow your butt looks big today.’”

One of the issues with understanding what sexual harassment is that many people are unclear about what counts as sexual harassment. There are many actions that some people would not think of as sexual harassment such as jokes about sex with individuals, touching, patting stroking, squeezing, tickling or hugging someone without their consent. Other examples include unwanted flirting, or making comments about clothing or body image.

The SPASH handbook states on page 21 “respectful hallway behavior is expected, respectful and appropriate language is expected, treat others with respect. Dangerous behaviors such as throwing snowballs, pushing, inappropriate physical contact or other irresponsible behaviors are not allowed.” The school handbook does not specifically address the behavioral expectations in any regards to sexual harassment.

Not many people know what to do if they need to report a sexual harassment incident. In the Stevens Point Area Public School District, a harassment complaint form exists where individuals can record their incident for further investigation by administrators. The form can be found at pointschools.net under the school board policies tab.  Complaint forms, according to the student handbook, can also be found in all SPASH offices. Contacting a trusted teacher, counselor, or other staff member and explaining the incident is also recommended.

Harassment can have many negative effects such as a lack of self-confidence, feeling unsure about if you did enough to prevent the harassment, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression or anxiety.

Recently at SPASH, there was an issue with sexual harassment of girls. A competition bracket was made categorizing girls based on their bodies. Students had different opinions on how it was handled by everyone. While some students thought the situation was handled appropriately and a fair punishment was given, other students disagreed and believed that it was handled poorly and that more should have been done.

“I feel the bracket situation as a general idea was very messy. Although I truly believe that administrators did as much as they could, not only for the sake of the boys that were involved in making the bracket but also for everyone else who felt they needed to talk to someone,” a student at SPASH said.

One girl said that the worst part of the whole thing was having to explain to her younger sibling that she was being harassed and that she did nothing wrong.

“She was so embarrassed that I was her sister and that all of the kids in her grade saw that I was on the bracket. Just the fact that younger kids think of me like that and I have a bad reputation due to this bracket that I didn’t choose to be on is completely ridiculous,” she said.